I am in love with Simon Doonan. Sure, I only got to chat with him for fifteen minutes and of course he has a spouse and so do I. Details, details…I still loved him the minute we met. I am sure he is used to this kind of admiration. After all, the charming Creative Ambassador-at-Large for Barneys New York is known not only for his legendary Barneys windows but also his sharp wit and spot-on commentary on the world of fashion and beyond. In addition to his Barneys Ambassador gig, Simon is the author of five books, writes a column on style for Slate Magazine, and makes frequent television appearances.
Mr. Doonan appeared at Barneys New York on September 23 to sign copies of his fifth book, Asylum. The book is filled with stories of the fashion world, its eccentric characters and their antics, along with tales of his journey from department store salesman in his hometown of Reading, Berkshire, England to the art of window-dressing Simon-style for Barneys New York. His windows are famous for their unique style and over-the-top creativity that have given both Barneys and Simon well deserved attention.
Guests of the low-key and lovely gathering were treated to French macaroons and bubbly among stacks of books and fabulous footwear—on the shelves and on the floor. We arrived a few minutes early and, while we spoke with Ashley Calandra, the Director of Publicity for Barneys New York, the ever gracious and approachable Doonan walked into the store and joined us for a quick chat before his book signing—what a treat! It so happened that I had finished the book two days prior to our meeting, so it was great to meet the man with the witty pen.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when he is discussing how appearing to be chic gives one an air of bitchiness. He states, “To appear chic and be perceived as chic, it is necessary to adopt the mien of a remote, cold bitch. Hauteur is your mot du jour. Disdain is your main accessory. Snottiness is your lifeblood. But what happens when you spend much of your waking life sucking in your cheeks and attempting to project bitchiness? Will you inevitably morph into a twisted homicidal witch? Will your chicness eventually devour any kindness or humanity which is lurking in your persona? Please try not to let it. Stay wicked on the outside and cosy on the inside.”
The interesting part about this perspective is that Ashley Calandra, who has been traveling with Simon on his book tour, tells me that he inspires people so much that they are compelled constantly to share their life dreams and ask him for advice. Calandra says that he is always truly interested, honest and gracious. In short, meeting Mr. Doonan is a master class in the art of being chic, as he holds his own with perfect poise while allowing the genuine, “cosy on the inside” warmth to shine through.
Doonan’s book encapsulates this quite eloquently. If you love sharp humor storytelling from a fashion insider with a lot of heart and perspective, read Asylum, available in stores or online at Barneys.com.
Photos by Haley McLain.